Trigger warnings: vomit, unmedicated pain, birth defects.
Its been 11 days since I experienced the earth shattering reality of child birth. In those 11 days my body has gone through a significant amount of change quicker than I thought possible. My stomach has shrunk, my posture transformed. My hair and skin look different, and my breasts have gone though engorgement, painful wounds, and various levels of milk supply. And still, none of that compares to the awe inspiring transition that my body went though for 3 days between November 4th and November 7th.
With family surrounding me, we waited day to day as November 2nd (baby’s guess date) came and went with no signs of labour other than braxton hicks. I wasn’t having trouble sleeping, my appetite was still hanging around, and induction was not something I wanted to discuss yet. My plan was to have a natural unmedicated water birth with as little interventions as possible. My pregnancy was uncomplicated, so there was no medical reason to ‘push things along’ as they say. Plus, I was very comfortable and ready to wait out baby’s arrival.
When the levee breaks
On November 4th, 2 days after the guess date, we were all sitting around the dining room table after a delicious meal when my water broke. Ever see the :O emoji in real life? Cause that was my face. I jumped from the chair giggling and squeeling, and ran up the stairs to confirm I didnt just pee my pants. My husband came to the bathroom door and said “are you sure its your waters?” I responded “well this tinkling sound isn’t me peeing! Its go time!”
Except, nope, it wasn’t go time. I wasn’t getting contractions. And I was still really comfortable except for the feeling of my fluids continuing to leak. We paged the midwife, and since there was no signs of labour yet we stayed home. I laid down in bed, and did my best to shove aside my excitement and get some rest.
The next morning November 5th I woke after a restful sleep to no contractions at all. Luckily I had a midwife appointment booked for that morning anyway, so we headed in. The midwife on call strapped me up to the monitors to check baby for movement and to see if any contractions were happening and to my surprise both were happening! Baby was moving lots, and even though i couldnt really feel them (I thought they were braxton hicks) I was contracting regularly every 7 minutes. Still, theres nothing to be done* so we were sent home.
* The midwives that I attended do not conduct regular vaginal exams to check dilation because it risks introducing bacteria into the vagina especially after the waters have been broken, and it’s also not an accurate gage of progress… some women spend weeks art 3-5cm dilation with no progress.
We spent the day counting time between light contractions but it seemed like things were slowing down. I was getting a bit nervous since I knew the longer we went without baby starting their departure, the closer I got to a medical intervention, and away from my water-birth plan! By the evening, all cramps completely stopped. Not a great feeling.
The next day November 6th, we went to see the midwife again (this time it was the midwife I had chosen, yay! She was back on shift) I was feeling contractions again, but was able to talk through them still, so we did the same monitoring, and baby was still moving. With fear creeping up on me about needing to be induced, I opted for a stretch and sweep. I was 2cm dilated at that point. Woo progress! My midwife also suggested that we try the Castor Oil cocktail (castor oil, pear juice, champagne and almond butter) to get things moving a bit more naturally. The concept is that its a strong laxative, so it will irritate the bowel enough to disrupt baby into -hopefully- starting their journey. So when we got home, my husband made the cocktail, and I drank the first of 3 doses at about 11 am. It was hands down the most disgusting thing I’ve ever drank in my life. It took everything in me to not throw up.
Soon after, my contractions started to make themselves very well known. They were getting stronger, longer, and closer together. We decided to call our Doula to let her know. She was in the neighbourhood so she stopped by to see how I was doing. She assured me that I wasn’t in active labour yet, and she would be back when I was. Before she left, my husband brought me the second dose of castor oil cocktail. As soon as he brought it in the room the smell wafted over to my overly sensitive pregnant nose and it immediately turned my stomach. After some coaching from my husband and Doula, I tried to drink it and managed only a single sip before RUNNING to the bathroom where I proceeded to vomit for the next 5 minutes. It was horrifying. I am severely emetophobic (fear of vomiting) so this was a highly traumatic moment for me. I was crying and shaking a lot after that. But, as my Doula reminded me, it was puking with a purpose; almost immediately my contractions were super charged… 1 minute apart, lasting 1-2 minutes each. And OMG were they strong. I couldn’t talk or walk through them at all. There was no ramp-up to this pain level. It started knocking me down instantly.
About an hour later we called our Doula back again (roughly 1pm), and paged the midwife. It seemed to me that this was active labour and it was time to get the show on the road! Our Doula was a super star; she hooked me up tp the tens machine, fed me water and grapes, helped me focus on my breathing and assisted in finding positions that helped the pain. When our midwife arrived, she did another vaginal exam and I wasn’t dilated any further. What!? Damn it! That meant to me that this wasn’t truly active labour, and that put a lot of fear in me. I was not handling this pain very well, and according to the textbooks, it was going to get worse. My Doula assured me that no, this is the worst of it. I just have to keep enduring it for a while. And so we laboured in my bedroom through contractions that were only a minute apart for approximately 7 hours. Props to my Doula again, for knowing that it wasn’t ‘go time’ even though the timer between contractions said it was. She knew exactly what to look for (which still remains a mystery to me) and knew I wasn’t there yet.
somewhere around 7pm I began saying “I cant do this anymore” (just like every other birth story!) and saying I wanted pain relief. My husband, my mom, and my Doula were all reminding me that I wanted a natural birth, but I was wailing in pain and ready for the epidural. It made me cry even more to think about having it, but 7 hours of contractions that close together and that strong was too much. My Doula called the midwife again, and said to her and me that it might be time to consider a new approach for me because it was too intense for too long. She saw I was getting tired and weak and wouldn’t be able to withstand much more. Together we made the decision that if I wasn’t dilated enough to go to the birthing centre (4cm) then we would go to the hospital instead to give me some relief. But if I was at 4 or more, we would stick with the birth plan.
My midwife arrived around 8 and checked my cervix…thank GOD I was ‘a soft 4’ which meant we could go to the birthing center! I was so incredibly relieved that I think I cried tears of joy! So we packed up and headed out. I sat in the back of my SUV and quietly laboured, humming and moaning low to myself as my husband and mother drove in the font in complete silence. Being in silence and not being coached helped me I think. I became more centred, more focused, and more relaxed (probably also due to the relief that I was NOT going to the hospital!!)
At the birthing centre
we arrived at the birthing centre around 9pm, and the room and birthing pool were all set up and ready for me. My midwife and Doula helped strip me down and lowered me into the bath. It was IMMEDIATE relief. My contractions were so much easier to bear! In a way I wish we went earlier for this relief, but it probably would not have has such a big impact.
I laboured there in the water, by meditation music, with candle light for a few more hours. My mom and husband were by my side watching, waiting, and helping as they could. He brought me freezies and cool facecloths for my neck, and my mom played with my hair to calm me down. My midwife checked the baby’s heartbeat every 15 minutes, my doula coached me through each contraction. By about the 2nd hour in the tub I requested the gas and air to help me through. Im not sure it actually helped the pain, but rather helped me relax more between contractions, and gave me a controlled breathing goal during contractions. It felt like they were slowing down to me, but they weren’t. Time was not real to me during any of this. I had no idea how long I had been labouring.
At about 11:45 I vomited again. This time, I didnt care as much… It meant I was in transition. Very soon after (it felt like minuets to me) I could feel the baby decend and I wanted to push. My contractions at this point felt like they lasted much longer than 1-2 minutes… I would intentionally push at the beginning of the contraction and at the tail end my body would fully take over with the expulsion reflex. It was the HUGEST feeling of my life. Not painful at all, but very very intense. At one point my midwife checked me and she said “i can feel his head! You can too Sarah, reach down.” I could feel my baby’s hair!! That was all I needed. No one counted, but I believe it was 3 more pushes after that moment of feeling my baby’s hair and baby was here! “Sarah grab your baby!” yelled my midwife! I reached down in the water, and felt his soft chubby little body in my hands and lifted him out of the water… my baby was born! I was in AWE!! I did it! We did it! We’re a family!!
When 2 become 3
After 1 minute, the baby wasn’t responding well, so the midwives had to suction him, cut his cord, and take him from me to get him breathing… He was okay, just a little stunned from the experience (cant be too safe with that situation!) I was mostly unphased knowing that its normal for a water-born baby to take a few moments to breathe and react, and knowing that he was in excellent hands with my midwives. (the amazing rush of oxytocin helped too!) My husband followed him and from the corner of the room he yelled “Sarah, we have a Lauchlan!” It’s a boy!! (In all the excitement and rush to get him to breathe, I forgot to look!)
My husband brought him back over to me, and we got to snuggle our new baby boy. I was helped out of the tub, dried off, and eased into bed with Ryan beside me and baby on my breast. It was the most amazing feeling in the world. Oxytocin rushed over me…I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt no pain, I felt only love and joy and awe for this precious little man and our new family.
We did it. Our wonderful baby boy was here. I was in paradise. What I didn’t know is that our journey was about to change our lives forever, and not in the ways we expected.
Stay turned for the continuation of this story and the earth-shattering news we received next.